The Myth about being Busy

busy bees

In my working life (which was drilled in to me at McDonalds when I was 15), you always needed to be busy, show that you are doing something. And so there’s always that perception, if Person A worked late every day but Person B did a standard day, it’s obvious that Person A is dedicated to do more work right? In my experience, we spend a lot of time trying to justify the time or number of hours that we do at work as a measure of ones dedication and effectiveness in the job.

However, after sampling Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun it has really changed my perspective on this.

When I was younger I thought busy people were more important than everyone else. Otherwise why would they be busy? It seemed like an easy way to decide who mattered and who didn’t. The busy mattered more and the lazy mattered less. This is the cult of busy: by always doing something, we assume you must be successful or important.”

Before having my mind blown, this is how I saw effectiveness at work and it’s what has been drilled in ever since I worked at McDonalds. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”. In fact, I’d go as far to say (for me) that I’d feel guilty or lazy if I wasn’t trying to do something productive (which is probably why I read so much non-fiction and it’s probably why I’ve felt like I’ve lost the ability to have fun). But in the working world, people always need to appear to be busy. We mock the guy taking a siesta in his cubicle because he should be working.

Are you Lazy if you’re More Efficient?

The person that does their job in one hour seems less busy than the guy who can only do it in five. How busy a person seems is not necessarily indicative of the quality of their results. Someone who is better at something might very well seem less busy, simply because they are more effective.

When we went to Sea World on the Gold Coast there were only two thrill rides that I wanted to go on. One was called Jet Rescue and the other was Sea Viper. The line up for Sea Viper was longer both in length (but not by much)  and wait time (30 mins compared to about 10 minutes). Usually for me when it came to judging what makes a good ride (prior to riding it) was long lines + long wait times = popular = awesome! As it turns out, this was fake busy-ness brought on by only one coaster going and unenthusiastic staff leaving long wait times between starting the ride. 10 seconds later and some banged up ears and it was all over.

Everyone gets the same amount of time every day and so cutting corners to try and save time doesn’t really lead anywhere because when  do you get that time back and what do you do with that time when you get it back? Also, when you say “I don’t have time to do x”, what you’re actually saying is that on the list of my current priorities, what you’re requesting doesn’t make my list.

If You’re Busy, You’re Probably Time Poor

People who are busy are time poor. They are either trying to do too much or they aren’t doing what they’re doing very well. They are failing to be effective with their time, so they scramble at trying to optimise for everything, which leads to optimising nothing.

By this definition, I’ve been really time poor. *Looks at the pile of great ideas that I’ve started but never progressed*. Because of this quest to be “busy”, I “didn’t have time” to just catch up with friends. Based probably on the initial premise of being busy = important.

Manage Your Time Better and Get Time Rich

People who have control over time always have some in their pocket to give to someone in need. A sense of priorities drives their use of time and it can shift away from the ordinary work that’s easy to justify, in favor of the more ethereal deeper things that are harder to justify. They might seem to idle, or relax more often than the rest, but that just might be a sign of their mastery, no their incompetence.

In order to not appear lazy, we end up trying to give the semblance of being busy, this in turn could actually create less effective workers. It has also been well documented that people can’t really work for lengthy stints in a row (around 90 minutes) and that most of my best creative ideas come from when you’re actually doing something else (watching a movie, taking a shower, dropping a deuce). So with a mind shift, it’s probably time to stop doing busy-work and starting too many projects and get time rich.

Reference: Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun.

Three Apps You Should Be Using For Travel Planning

travel-suitcase

So in about 2 weeks time, I’ll be trekking my way over to America. It’s been around a year since my last overseas trip. And I guess last year I was spoiled as my sister planned pretty much everything. We spent a lot of time Facebooking, Wiki-ing, printing, Lonely Planeting. So most of the information we needed ended up being quite scattered. It was a good thing my sister was well organised though carrying around a folder full of printouts..

So in planning this US trip, I figured there has got to be an easier way. So I found some really useful sites and applications. So much so that I hadn’t even had the need to open my Lonely Planet guide that I got for Christmas. So here are the travel apps that I found most useful (note I didn’t try every application, but these are the ones that worked great for me).

Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) is a great resource for finding accommodation and touristy places to see. Being community driven, there are community ratings on what the hotels like. What I found really useful was that it allowed you to search multiple hotel websites from the one place. This added an extra level of convenience instead of having to search each site manually. There were also City Guide Android applications (e.g. Los Angeles) which provided offline content and maps which I think will be extremely useful when I’m over in the US.

I’m going to tell you now that if you’re not using TripIt (http://www.tripit.com) to store your itineraries then you really should. What TripIt provides is the ability to create itineraries for the places that you’re going to. It stores information like your hotel confirmation numbers, the hotel’s address and contact information. This means you can essentially save some trees by not printing out your confirmation E-Mails. But the best part about TripIt is that you can just E-Mail your plans to a special E-Mail address and TripIt will automagically suck out all the useful information for you to build your itinerary. It saved me a lot of data entering. Lastly, the Android application let’s you view all of this information offline (which is great due to insane International Roaming fees). It’s also useful if you’re picking people up from the airport as it will tell you when the flights are delayed so you don’t get shooed off (like they do to you at Adelaide Airport).

So I downloaded this application during Google’s 10 cent apps sale. FlightTrack is an Android application (and I’m sure there’s an iPhone version) which as the name implies tracks your flights. Although TripIt also stores information about your flights, FlightTrack goes one better and provides updates to you on which gate you need to go to at the airport, and if the plane is running on time or if it’s running late. On my last flight I was on, it provided me with 30 extra minutes in the Virgin Lounge. If you buy the extra super dooper app (which I did not), it can also suck data from TripIt.

Are there any other travel apps that you’ve found that have been indispensable? Let me know in the comments below.

How I Reacquainted Myself with A Love of Doing (or Why Learning is Fun)

to-do-list-nothing

I used to be adventurous, and never afraid to try stuff. Try different stuff, and try to get answers through action. I competed in everything (I have the last place in every 800m race I ran ribbons to prove it). When you’re in that state of learning something new and pioneering creativity, it felt good. At some point in time though, I lost my way.

In A Theory of Fun for Game Design Raph Koster gave a pretty good definition of fun.

Fun is primarily about practicing and learning, not about exercising mastery. Exercising mastery will give us some other feeling, because we are doing it for a reason, such as status enhancement or survival.

When you’re trying out new things, you’re learning and learning new things is fun. So where I believe I lost my way was in the quest for status (through subsequently trying to show mastery). This quest for status is something that we all do because we all want to try and look better in the eyes of other people, or yourself. But it was this quest for status (or trying to maintain status) that ended up being the biggest hurdle that was stopping me from doing things.

Continue reading

Game Journal – StreetPass 2nd Opinion

YumYum Mii

Originally I was skeptical of the whole Street Pass concept, I mean who would want to just walk around with their 3DS everywhere (me apparently). While I was in Brisbane, my brother got me hooked on the Nintendo 3DS’s Street Pass functionality. Instead of rehashing, please take the time to read his original post. Nintendo are promoting heavily the Street Pass functionality, perhaps even surpassing the importance of the 3D functionality of the 3DS which is a pretty big move. This post I just wanted to chime in with my 2 cents on the original Street Pass games, Puzzle Swap and Street Pass Quest. I will be following the developments of Street Pass functionality quite closely though.

Just to reiterate, to read about how to play, check out my brother’s post. Continue reading

Game Journal – Streetpass

GuodOh_Mii

A feature of the 3DS that requires the person to walk and makes me want to keep walking. What blasphemy is this?!?

Playing the Game

The 3ds acts like a pedometer recording the number of steps that a person has taken. For every 100 steps taken you get a coin at a maximum of 10 coins per day. These coins can be spent in various ways such as obtaining figurines in ‘Streetfighter’, gaining unlockable items faster such as ‘Dead or Alive’, and extras games and collectables from the software on the 3DS console.  Specifically, you can gather hats for your Mii and 3D images of various Nintendo games in one of the 3DS software known as ‘Streetpass Plaza’.

 In ‘Streetpass Plaza’, there are two games. One is known as ‘Puzzle Swap’, the objective is to obtain puzzles pieces to complete 3D pictures like a jigsaw puzzle. When you start you are given one random piece from a puzzle. In ‘Puzzle Swap’ you can spend your coins on pieces, but the pieces are random, so there is a chance that you can obtain the same piece twice. The second game is called ‘Streetpass Quest’. In this game you can obtain various iconic hats, by defeating enemies with physical attacks or magic in turn-based RPG style combat. In this game, by spending coins you can recruit wanderers to attempt to rescue your Mii who has been kidnapped. However, there are limitations by just spending coins. The limitation of ‘Puzzle Swap’ is that you can only get pieces from jigsaws that you have unlocked and for ‘Street Quest’ to hire a full team (10 people) you need twenty coins, essentially two days of walking and they will also be between the levels of one and two. To obtain more Puzzles and heroes for Streetpass Quest is to do like the namesake, Streetpass.

 To ‘Streetpass’ it involves walking around with your 3DS and passing others on the street with their 3DS. When you pass somebody you will get a notification indicating that you have passed someone. You can get a maximum of 10 people on one trip and those people will remain in your plaza. This way you can obtain other pieces from other puzzles, which you can then spend your hard earned walking money to complete those puzzles. When you Streetpass people, you can later use them in Streetpass Quest for one time only until Streetpass Quest II where you can rehire them. The people obtained through Streetpassing begin at level one, if you Streetpass them again they gain a level. You can Streetpass continually with someone but they will only be at level seven which is the maximum level for Streetpass Quest.

Thank you kind sir for the puzzle piece! You are a gentlemen and a scholar!

Game Analysis

What Worked

  • Exercise. Although it is easy enough to shake your 3DS, it can encourage people to actively walk outside to get coins and possibly meeting up with people.
  • Limit of coins gathered through walking. Limit on amount of coins you can gather daily so no chance of “game fatigue”/early boredom.
  • Streetpass Rewards. The reward for street pass quest are great so now instead of showing off your Mii’s that you’ve created, they now can wear an iconic hat to make them more unique and show off your fanboyism/fangirlism.

What Didn’t Worked

  • Puzzle Swap Rewards. The reward for Puzzle Swap is a little lacking. The images could have been unique, but the images are just of box art which I have already seen, with minor animations attached to them and lack of camera control. An interactive reward would have been better like the ability to rotate to whatever angle you want and for example, allow Link to sword slice with a button press rather than it being automated.
  • Certain Streetpass Quest I/II mechanics. In Streetpass Quest and its successor, certain mechanics make me want to throw my 3DS in an anger fuelled rage. One of the mechanics is when you need a specific colour or colours to bypass an enemy. This requires dumb luck through hiring or Streetpassing or multiple 3DSs to obtain the colour needed. Second, there are enemies who are clad in armour where level ones cannot cause damage to it. This would be an alright mechanic if you are constantly bumping into the same people and levelling up or they gave you a random chance to get higher levels.
  • The need for others with a 3DS. Not a huge detrimental factor but to get street pass hits there is a need for others with 3DSes. In other words you won’t be able to complete puzzles unless you get hits. You can still do Streetpass Quest, but requires dumb luck and lots of coinage.

Final Comments

I thoroughly enjoyed and still enjoying the Streetpass Plaza’s Puzzle Swap and Streetpass Quest, but it could be because I borrow my older brother’s 3DS, so we have constant level sevens gaining hats for each other.  Although, I still go out to try and get my 10 coins every day, so the extra exercise is great and it still motivates me to go outside which is definitely a plus in my books.

P.S. This is all opinion and different people may have a different experience. Sorry for the fuzzy photos, they were taken on my Iphone, and they were my best quality in comparison to other cameras.

Being Engaged at the Brink of your Ability

Tetris

In A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster suggests different ways that boredom could strike in a game.

  • Players might work out how the game works in five minutes and dismiss the game as “too easy” (i.e. any trivial work that isn’t stimulating but you have to do it)
  • Players might discover that there’s a ton of depth in the game but all these permutations are below their level of interest (i.e. way too many options that you don’t want to wade through)
  • Players might fail to see any pattern at all, and so the game is deemed as “too hard” (i.e. being assigned a task that you don’t have the faintest idea about how to start)
  • If variants in the game are released too slowly, the game could be dismissed as trivial prematurely.
  • If variants in the game are released too quickly, the player could lose control and think “this game got too hard too quickly”.
  • They master everything in the pattern, effectively exhausting the fun, beating the game.

So if you think about this from a real life task perspective, if the task is too easy, you get bored. If the task is too hard or if there are just way too many options, you get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start (All of which probably leads to procrastination). However, once your porridge is just right, you’re able to enter a state of flow where you remain engaged and you continue to work not because you have to but because you want to. In Reality Is Broken, Jane McGonigal states that there are games that continue to challenge you at the brink of your ability, and it’s because of this that makes you want to come back for more.

So an example of this is the game Tetris. Throughout the game, you are constantly challenged because the blocks keep dropping faster and faster as you progress through the game. When the game finally ends, you’ve reached the brink of your ability. There is no “winning at Tetris”, at some point in time the blocks are going to reach the top of the stack and the game will be over. What gives it that addictive nature is the incentive to come back and try and play a little bit better than your previous attempt.

So part of the challenge that we’ll face in trying to provide gamification to education or to the workplace is that in order to get the best outcome, we need the ability to provide challenges that are just challenging enough, that people will see as solvable and achievable by them, but provide enough of a challenge that the task is not trivial.